Jane Darwin's Maiden Name

Wilkinson, Wilkerson,...or Clodhopper?

 The wife of William Darwin (1707-1786), of Louisa County VA, is almost universally given by other researchers as Jane Wilkerson or Jane Wilkinson, and the claim appears to have been advanced for at least a generation. We have, in turn, presented the name herein -- but we do so with a question mark against it.

 We have not been able to identify the earliest occurence of this claim, but more significantly, we have never been able to identify a primary source to indicate Jane's maiden name, and thus do not regard the claim as well-founded. Moreover, there are some specific grounds for rejecting it.

 To review: we know, both from the 1746 Hardy-Darwin Land Indenture and from William's 1785 Will, that his wife's given name was indeed Jane (rendered, in the first document referenced here, as "Jean"). But no 18th century document from Virginia states Jane's maiden name, nor any known document from the 19th century (including the authoritative Darwin/Bland "Bible" of circa 1837).

 Our presumption had long been that, although no primary source for it was known, both the persistence and consistency of the "Wilkerson/Wilkinson" claim argued that such a source must have existed (though possibly since lost) and been known to earlier researchers. And our hope has been, that this source may someday resurface and validate the claim.

 But our doubts here have come to outweigh our hope, for two principal reasons.

 First, it is difficult to conceive of a primary source which would have yielded Jane's maiden name without also giving up some other genealogical information one would expect to have also persisted in the records of earlier researchers. The three most common sources for maiden names are


  1. Marriage Records : generally church records designating, say, "marriage of John Smith and Mary, daughter of William Brown"


  1. Wills of Other Family Members : generally in the form of, "I, William Brown, do bequeath to my daughter, Mary Smith..."


  1. Bible Records : generally in a form similar to marriage records, specifically providing parentage of females marrying into the family


Had the source for the "Wilkinson/Wilkerson" claim been such an item, then it is curious that no other information is associated with it: a marriage record also gives a place, a will or Bible can give the names other family members, but these are lacking here.

 Second: in establishing the provenance of the Darwin/Bland "Bible", it is striking that the surnames "Wilkerson" and "Wilkinson" appear in the likely line of transmission. The document unquestionably originates in the household of William Darwin's son John Darwin 2.8, and is specifically associated with John's daughter Pamela (Darwin) Summerford 3.38; so much, however, may not have been apparant to earlier researchers, some of whom may have mistaken the document as contemporary with William Darwin in the 1740's rather than originating from a later generation in the 1830's.

 Although the precise transmission of this document from Pamela (Darwin) Summerford is not known, it seems significant to us that one of her granddaughters, Mary Darwin Summerford (1893-1989), married one James Walter Wilkerson (1884-1955) and resided her entire life at Hickory Grove. We do not at present know, but strongly suspect, this is the same Wilkerson family as the 'Jean Wilkerson' said to have owned the original document in the 1960's (the document is sometimes referenced as the Jean Wilkerson Bible.

 So much would appear to give us a clear line of transmission from John Darwin to the present day, but additionally suggests to us the possibility that an earlier researcher, not knowing the actual provenance of a document called the Jean Wilkerson Bible and additionally being familiar with the 1746 Hardy - Darwin Land Indenture (wherein William Darwin's wife is recorded as Jean) may have made the simple assumption that Jean Wilkerson was the name of William Darwin's wife.

 Additionally, some further confusion may possibly have been introduced by the problematical document known as the 1880 Mary Hope Darwin "Bible" Record. This is in part derived from the earlier Darwin/Bland "Bible" record, apparently to further an application for D.A.R. membership. It originates with Mary (Darwin) Hope, daughter of Peyton B. Darwin and Jerusha James; Peyton B. Darwin's first wife, who is listed in this later record, was Mary Wilkinson (1803-1855).

 We are, of course, speculating here about possible ways in which the names Wilkinson/Wilkerson might have been associated in error with the maiden name of William Darwin's wife Jane. But in the continuing absence of any original document indicating her maiden name, our confidence in the 'Wilkinson/Wilkerson' claim remains low.